Project Based Learning

Great post by Nicholas Provenzano (aka @thenerdyteacher), “I’ve got 99 Problems, but a Test Ain’t One

Nick writes extensively about his experiments with project-based learning, and the huge successes he’s seen. He also writes about tech integration and the advantages, even though his school isn’t 1:1. He just has a classroom set of iPads. He’s a huge Evernote fan. (No, I’ve never met him, although I have seen him at ISTE.)

I appreciate his thoughtfulness about why he moved away from multiple choice tests: “Remembering the character’s hometown was nice, but demonstrating the importance the hometown played in the story is far more important.” He acknowledges that writing a good multiple choice test is difficult, and it was more about a reading check rather than a check for understanding.

I appreciate how his classes are set up for the benefit of the student, taking advantage of their natural inclinations,

Students are yearning to show their teachers their talent and knowledge. They are bursting at the seams to show the world what they can do. The traditional classroom of lecture and test does not allow them to do that though. The minute I started to let my students choose their projects and express their knowledge in different ways, engagement and the overall energy of the students went through the room.


I sit on a district curriculum committee. The focus of everything is on test scores. It’s all about bringing up the scores. There’s no room even to ask about the value of the standardized tests – it’s just taken for granted. My daughter’s grades are heavily dependent on tests, the tests get far more weight than other work that may require more thought. I’ve had a chance to look at some tests (only a few because they don’t allow the tests out of the room!!) Most of the tests are basic factual recall. Even the teachers admit that they aren’t asking many higher level questions. Why aren’t the tests allowed out of the classroom? Because kids might cheat. And they can cheat because it’s all straight factual recall. There’s very little cheating possible in a project based classroom.

Says Nick:

Somewhere along the way, education lost its way and started to focus heavily on memorization of facts and not the actual act of learning. To me, MC tests, fill in the blank exams, etc. as the only means of assessment are a symptom of that larger problem.


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